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Dutch writer Gerbrand Bakker has won the world's richest literary prize for his debut novel The Twin, beating more established finalists such as Joseph O'Neill and Zoe Heller.

The 100,000-euro ($127,295) International IMPAC Dublic Literary Award honoured Bakker for his story of a man returning to his family's farm and a life in the unendingly flat, grey countryside of Holland. The judging panel praised the book's rich detail within its "sparely written story," seasoned with "odd small cruelties, laconic humour and surprising tendernesses."

All of the nominated books have to be English written or translated into English, and so the novel's translator, David Colmer, will receive a quarter of the prize money.

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Other novels short-listed for the prize included Heller's The Believers, O'Neill's Netherland and Marilynne Robinson's Home. Also on the list were Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehhog, Robert Edric's In Zodiac Light, Christoph Hein's Settlement and Ross Raisin's God's Own Country.

The annual award is administered by Dublin City Libraries, with nominations coming from libraries worldwide. In 2008, the award received wide coverage in Canada after Canadian novelist Rawi Hage won for his debut novel De Niro's Game. Last year, another first-time novelist, U.S. author Michael Thomas, won for his book Man Gone Down.

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Guy Dixon is a feature writer for The Globe and Mail. More

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